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JOHNSTOWN, Colo. — An expanded Interstate 25 in northern Colorado has moved another step closer to reality.

The Larimer County Commission signed on its commitment to the $237 million project on Tuesday night. The much-needed improvements will reduce the drudgery of driving along the interstate in northern Colorado.         

“Every day, I’m up and down this. This is the worst stretch anymore,” Loveland native Robert Mares said.

There’s nothing like gridlock on I-25 to fuel Mares’ frustration.

“It’s nonstop (congestion) at all times. All it takes is a flat tire and the whole thing is backed up,” he said.

It is the same for Bob Morales, who drives on the highway twice a week.

“Accidents are happening left and right. It’s too many people for two-lane roads going each way. So we need to widen it,” Morales said.

Roadway relief is on the way for the overloaded two-lane highway for 26 miles from Fort Collins to Johnstown.

“This is a project that is critical to the region, to northern Colorado,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Amy Ford said.

She said a commitment from Larimer County for $15 million combined with $10 million from neighboring towns gives CDOT $25 million to snag matching federal funds to build a third tolled lane in each direction of the interstate.

Ford said tolling works wonders in other parts of Colorado.

“In some instances, we’ve seen travel times improve from 20 (percent) to 50 percent. And not just for those using the toll lanes, but who use the general, free lanes,” Ford said.

Some drivers said they welcome anything to reduce congestion. But others question if paying to drive faster is fair.

“I protest against that because where is my tax money going to? I’m disappointed,” Morales said.

“It would be blessing, awesome to have an extra lane in every direction. It’s an option,” Mares said.

The project will also replace four aging bridges and widen four additional bridges. Construction starts in about 18 months and should be finished three years later.

CDOT is finishing up the design work and will soon hire a contractor.